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Surgical site infections in early onset scoliosis: what are long-term outcomes in patients with traditional growing rods?



Deep surgical site infections (SSIs) are a common and potentially severe complication in early onset scoliosis (EOS) patients. We sought to identify the long-term outcomes following SSI, specific risk factors associated with recurrent infections, and if instrument retention is a prudent SSI management strategy in EOS.


We performed a retrospective review of all EOS patients who underwent traditional growing rod spine procedures from 2003 to 2017. Infections were categorized as single or multiple SSIs. All infections were treated with operative irrigation and debridement (I&D) as well as antibiotics. Univariate analysis was performed using chi-square and ANOVA tests to assess differing factors between patients with single versus multiple infections.


Eighty-one patients underwent 638 growth-friendly traditional growing rod procedures. There were 21 patients (26%) who developed a total of 27 SSIs (4.2% SSI per procedure). Fifteen patients had a single infection and six patients had multiple infections. Demographics were not significantly different between these two groups. Patients with multiple infections had a significant difference in the number of procedures after initial infection (p value = 0.025) and positive preoperative nasal Staphylococcus aureus screen (p value = 0.0021) when compared to those with a single SSI. Of note, these results were not available at the time of pre-operative antibiotic selection.

All 21 patients had resolution of their SSIs. Twenty patients reached final instrumented fusion. Two patients, both of whom had multiple infections, underwent complete removal of instrumentation. Reasons included one each, parental request resulting in termination of treatment and infection > 7 years after final fusion.


Most patients who develop SSIs during growing spine treatment are able to remain instrumented. Risk factors associated with developing multiple SSIs include infection earlier in the course of growing spine surgery, a resultant higher number of procedures following the initial infection and having a positive preoperative nasal Staphylococcus aureus screen.

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AMD, JY: data collection, Writing—original draft preparation, approval of final version of manuscript, Agree to be accountable for the work. CPK: data collection, approval of final version of manuscript, agree to be accountable for the work. CPK, GHT, RJM: approval of final version of manuscript, agree to be accountable for the work.

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Correspondence to R. Justin Mistovich.

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Anne Marie Dumaine, James Yu, Connie Poe-Kochert: No relevant CME disclosures or conflict of interest to report. George H Thompson: Consultant—OrthoPediatrics; Financial support—Broadwater, LLC (course production and management), NuVasive (travel expenses), OrthoPediatrics (royalties), Scoliosis Research Society (travel expenses), Shriners Hospital for Children (salary), Wolters Kluwer (salary). R. Justin Mistovich: Consultant—Philips Healthcare, OrthoPediatrics.

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Dumaine, A.M., Yu, J., Poe-Kochert, C. et al. Surgical site infections in early onset scoliosis: what are long-term outcomes in patients with traditional growing rods?. Spine Deform (2021).

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  • Early-onset scoliosis
  • Spine deformity
  • Surgical site infection
  • Instrumentation